The West Baton Rouge School Board continued their discussions about safety during their regular meeting Wednesday evening, February 20.
The discussion began when board member Mike Maranto demanded immediate action be taken to ensure safety in parish schools rather than wait to get a recommendation from the WBR Crisis Response Team.
“You’re either going to be reactive to an injury or incident that happened, or you’ll be proactive and try to prevent things and see what’s the problem here. What can we do to prevent (a person) from doing something to hurt somebody?” he asked the board. “What can we do at the schools to prevent someone from coming on campus or something?”
Maranto said that he believed each school should utilize metal detectors every day as well as make sure doors and gates in and around the school are closed and locked during school days.
“We have metal detectors at all the schools. Why not use them? Why not start?” he said. “We’ve got to do some things; and I feel like now is the time to start doing them.
We need to start moving today.”
Charlotte Blanchard, WBR Schools Supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance, said the WBR Schools’ policy is that once a month in each of the parish’s 10 schools, 100 percent of an individual school’s population must go through a metal detector. There are also weekly searches in each school of at least 25 percent of the student population, which can be done with walk through metal detectors or handheld metal detectors, along with random searches as a school’s administration sees fit.
School board member Craig Sarradet said that he thought having students go through metal detectors more often was a possibility, but having them searched every day was unnecessary.
“Do we need to increase the intervals of which we use the metal detectors and use the wands? Maybe so. Maybe that’s something that we can do,” he said. “ But realistically, do we have the means to run every student through a metal detector? Can we do that everyday? I don’t even know if that’s possible.”
But Maranto said he thought it was not only possible, but necessary as well.
“It’s the school board that’s ultimately responsible,” he said. “The principal has a job to do. Maybe they need to be inconvenienced in order for us to get this thing going the right way, in the right direction.”
School Superintendent David Corona said that he relied on each schools’ principal and administration to make decisions on how they believe their schools should run, and he plans to continue relying on them.
Sarradet agreed with Corona’s stance on schools’ administrators being the deciding factor, as they are the ones who know their schools the best.
“If all of the principals feel threatened or feel like there’s an issue on all their campuses, then that’s something that we need to do,” said Sarradet. “I don’t think we ought to dictate to them and say this is the way we’re going to have it.
He said that he wanted the WBR Crisis Team to evaluate what each school needed in terms of safety, and along with principals’ and school board members’ input the board make a decision on what should be done.
“I just feel like it’s imperative that we get a crisis team in there and let them make the recommendation to us and we address those issues then,” he said. “I think we’ve got to take what the crisis team tells us and then we’ve also got to look at our lockdown procedures. All of that’s got to mesh together and we’ve got to get the best bang for our dollars going forward.”
School board member Jason Manola recommended that the board differ any action until getting a report back from the crisis team on their recommendations for improvement through our entire school system. The board unanimously agreed.
In other news, the board elected Jason Manola to continue his duties as President, and Dr. Atley Walker to continue his duties as board’s Vice President.